Living in the Middle of Hackney by Nicola Dracoulis
Living in the Middle of Hackney presents the lives of 5 young people in one of London's most marginalized suburbs. I lived in Hackney for 8 years, during this time I was commissioned to photograph a group of teenagers involved in out-of-school activities that had been set up for young people 'at risk of exclusion'. This risk existed for a combination of issues: most young people were from poor families, the area was under serviced for young people, and with nothing better to do, many young people, mostly boys were getting drawn into gang culture. Violence perpetrated by gang culture was affecting all their families' lives. People like me, white and middle class, could live without having much idea of what was going on except for the sensational Hackney Gazette headlines reporting the latest in local violence.
In the UK Peace Index 2003 – 2012, Hackney was rated third least peaceful suburb in London. It also stated that 70% of Hackney households experience deprivation in education, health, employment, housing, and health.
I spent a summer in 2008 with 7 teenagers. In 2015 I returned to see where they are at now in their 20s and with Hackney in the midst of rapid gentrification. I was able to catch up with 5 of them.
My work attempts to confront negative stereotypes surrounding underprivileged youth. The seemingly fixed coordinates of race, class, and gender are all subject to pressure. Eschewing sensationalism for detail, I want to make visible the everyday heroics of normal people and recover true stories of real lives. By juxtaposing images of past and present, the project encourages audiences to question assumptions about how the future unfolds for ourselves and others. As some goals move forward, others are re-evaluated.
This project is very personal to me as I lived in Hackney for 8 years, it is my second home, I really care about what is happening within that community and especially in light of the massive changes due to gentrification, redevelopment and changes in social services that have occurred in the last 7 years. The summer in 2008 that I spent with the people in this project, was a special and pivotal period for all of us.
Nicola Dracoulis lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.
To view more of Nicola's work, please visit her website.